Ask students to write a list of what defines their generation. Ask them to consider technology, music, historic events, slang, the difference between themselves and their parents, clothing, trends, TV shows, movies, hit songs, etc.
Read/listen to “Howl” and “Song for Trent Lott.”
Note the repetition of the we and who, the series of small portraits.
Write a generational portrait. Have students, if they wish, use the phrase “we who.” Students should use sensory imagery and information, using their lists as a springboard. Encourage them to create something epic and timeless.
Note that in “Song for Trent Lott” the word “nigger” is not censored as it was in previous pieces. Ask the class why they think that is, in the context of the pieces the N-word is used in.
Have students write for 10-20 minutes.
Stop writing. Read around.
“Howl” by Allen Ginsberg I.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
grow stink to fester like culture
you don’t want none of this Mau Mau sh*t
none of this Panther sh*t
this Black Jacobin sh*t
from we who survive
Giuliani and Jasper, Texas
you think this sh*t would have been easier?
Manifestos & Essentials
Young Chicago Authors
Organization Art Form(s)
A chance to tie many things learned together and say what is essential about what has been learned and thought.
To have students write a list of essentials and/or manifesto about their own writing.
Haki Madhubuti’s “Black Poetics / for the many to come”
Jack Kerouac’s “Essentials for Spontaneous Prose”
Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman”
Read Madhubuti’s manifesto, Kerouac’s “Essentials,” and Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.”
Talk about what is great about each, discuss.
Note the liberties the poets take with spelling/language.
Have students write their own manifesto or list of writing essentials.
Have students write for 20 minutes, encouraging them to fill two pages or 20 essentials.
Stop writing. Read around.
“Black Poetics/for the many to come”
by Don L. Lee (Haki R. Madhubuti) The most significant factor about the poems/poetry you will be reading is the idea. The idea is not the manner in which a poem is conceived but the conception itself. From the idea we move toward development & direction (direction: the focusing of yr/idea in a positive or negative manner; depending on the poet’s orientation). Poetic form is synonymous with poetic structure and is the guide in developing yr/idea.
What u will be reading is blackpoetry. Blackpoetry is written for/to/about & around the lives/spiritactions/humanism & total existence of blackpeople. Blackpoetry in form/sound/word usage/intonation/rhythm/repetition/definition/direction & beauty is opposed to that which is now (& yesterday) considered poetry, i.e., wh-ite poetry. Blackpoetry in its purest form is diametrically opposed to wh-ite poetry. Whereas, blackpoets deal in the concrete rather than the abstract (concrete: art for people’s sake; black language or Afro-american language in contrast to standard English, &c.). Blackpoetry moves to define and legitimize blackpeople’s reality (that which is real to us). Those in power (the unpeople) control and legitimize the the negroes’ (the realpeople’s) reality out of that which they, the unpeople, consider real. That is, to the unpeople the television programs Julia and The Mod Squad reflect their vision of what they feel the blackman is about or should be about. So, in effect, blackpoetry is out to negate the negative influences of the mass media; whether it be TV, newspaper, magazines or some wh-ite boy standing on stage saying he’s a “blue eyed soul brother.”
Blackpeople must move to where all confrontations with the unpeople are meaningful and constructive. That means that most, if not all, blackpoetry will be political. I’ve often come across black artists (poets, painters, actors, writers, &c.) who feel that they and their work should be apolitical; not realizing that to be apolitical is to be political in a negative way for blackfolks. There is no neutral blackart; either it is or it isn’t, period. To say that one is not political is as dangerous as saying, “by any mean necessary,” it’s an intellectual cop-out, & n*****s are copping-out as regularly as blades of grass in a New England suburb. Being political is also why the black artist is considered dangerous by those who rule, the unpeople. The black artist by defining and legitimizing his own reality becomes a positive force in the black community (just think of the results of Le Roi Jones [Imamu Amiri Baraka] writing the lyrics for the music of James Brown). You see, black for the blackpoet is a way of life. And, his totalactions will reflect that blacknes & he will be an example for his community rather than another contradictor.
Blackpoetry will continue to define what is and what isn’t. Will it tell what it to be & how to be it (or bes it). Blackpoetry is and will continue to be an important factor in culture building. I believe Robert Hayden had culture building in mind when he wrote these lines in an early poem:
And teach them the legends of their blood.
Blackpoetry is excellence & truth and will continue to seek such. Blackpoetry will move toe xpose & wipe-out that which is not necessary for our existence as a people. As a people is the only way we can endure….and blacknation building must accelerate at top speed. Blackpoetry is Ornette Coleman teaching violin & the Supremes being black again. Blackpoetry is like a razor, it’s sharp & will cut deep, not out to wound but to kill the inactive blackmind. Like, my oldman used to pickup numbers and he’d seldom get caught & I’m faster than him; this is a fight with well defined borders & I know the side I’m ON. See u. Go head, now.
“Belief and Technique for Modern Prose” by Jack Kerouac
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
“Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing of my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman